Hey, “Elephants” like to hang out on campus, too! (Organizing tips for Student Entrepreneurs)

Yes, apparently, “elephants” don’t discriminate!  No matter what shape, form or fashion in the corporate or business world, you can become a casualty of the “clutter giant”.  Even YOU, student entrepreneurs! Getting organized is the only “elephant repellent”… that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  So these are just a few simple organizing tips to help you balance life as a ‘trep and as a college student.

  • Purge books that you no longer need.  There are a number of ways that your books can contribute to a lot of good.  Whether it’s helping other students to save money by selling your books to a buyback program or local sites like Craigslist, or donating to local libraries or thrift stores, or holding a book swap party at your place.  Who doesn’t like a party?!. throw some much-needed textbooks in the mix and you’re the campus rock star.)
  • Plan ahead… create a schedule and stick to it.  Take care of things while you have the time.  As a matter of fact, take care of things ahead of time instead of putting them off.  It can absolutely create a stress-filled domino effect to the rest of your day and possibly the week.  Think about it… would you rather be the one who’s, literally, handling your business more focused, confident, and excited about the day ahead?  Or would you rather be the one who’s always on edge, playing catch-up all week between servicing customers and chasing the clock between classes?  Also, if you have a business that you operate on a seasonal basis, like during winter or summer breaks, use the time when you’re not operating your business to prepare for business for the next season. Save money, focus on marketing to acquire new customers/clients, make any modifications to your schedule to reflect changes for that upcoming season, etc.  Having a schedule helps you to develop discipline and the motivation to obtain your goals, both in business and while in school.
  • Maintain control of the “elephant” sitting on your desk… paper clutter.  This is bigger than a paper trail, people… it’s a peanut trail!  Let’s just be honest… you will always have some sort of paperwork waiting for you on your desk whether it’s for business or school.  So I want to be as realistic as possible when it comes to this issue.  The problem is not having a lot of paper, it’s how you are managing it.  The key is control.  Create a paper system.  Start by determining what documents you TRULY DO NEED, seriously…because those three-year-old business lunch receipts and even older class registration forms are not getting it.  As you go through your paperwork, break out your label maker and sort them by general category, like ‘Business’ or ‘School’.  Then create sub-categories within each of your general categories.  Like for ‘Business’, you may want to create sub-categories such as ‘Receipts’, or ‘Business Forms’, etc.  For ‘School’, you might consider a ‘Financial’ sub-category or create sub-categories by classes – hey, it’s a great temporary option for that never-ending syllabus collection every semester.  It doesn’t matter how you do it as long as it’s relevant and convenient for you… unless, of course, you are a part of a team of people (like employees or business partners) then, yes, you have to be a little more considerate.  Check out a previous post I did on this very scenario on sharing a space.  Include your team in the decisions regarding your newly organized paper system.  Once, you’ve given every sheet or document a category home, guess what?  You’re done!  Then all there’s left to do is to file them away and be disciplined in taking ten little minutes, each day, to putting things back where they belong after you’re done with them.  In other words, don’t wake up the next morning to an “elephant massacre” all over your work area.  It is NOT pretty, as I’m sure you already know.
  • Got off-site storage?  Treat it as if you live there.  If you are a student entrepreneur who acquires a business inventory and you’re short on storage because you live in on-campus housing or you share an apartment, then this tip is for you.  However, be sure to keep your storage unit very organized, especially in cases where you store business inventory and personal items together.  Create sections based on what you have and purchase sturdy, damage-free products to store your items in.  You want to protect your business investment and your personal items.  Label everything!  Organize this space as if you were living in it.  You need to be able to find what you need when you need it; so make it as simple as “go in, grab it, and get out.”  No more shuffling through a bunch of “stuff”.  Who needs that?!

Owning a business entails having control and that includes having control over your living, work, and storage spaces.  Otherwise, you just end up with a big, fat problem on your hands.

That “elephant”… I tell you…

– Sy


Friday’s Inspired Space (Home-based Business Organizing)


While we are on the topic of moving, let’s take today’s inspired space to the Netherlands.  Marielle, co-owner of HouseofDots.com, is a stay/work-from-home mom.  Her retail business specializes in women’s apparel so you can imagine the inventory and supplies she needs in order to carry out her day-to-day responsibilities.  Check out her amazingly organized space.  She has created a simple system of organization for all of her items in one zone while taking full advantage of her vertical space (floor-to-ceiling) for storage.  She has a separate work area as well as a sewing station that she managed to locate next to her shelving.  By putting her sewing station near the shelving, it definitely makes it easier to grab what she needs and place it back.  She utilized a wall in a neutral area to be able to see what she needs to display from every area she is working in.  If that wasn’t enough, she cleverly leveraged her storage boxes to display one of her design pieces… um, yeeess!

So for you retail entrepreneurs out there, take notes from Marielle’s space.  She’s proven that you can make the best out of any size space for your home business.

Enjoy the weekend, guys!  More tips on the way…


Home-based Business Organizing Tip #5: It’s MY products and I’ll store them how I want to!

Not everyone works or thinks the same way.  So when it comes to creating an effective storage system for your products, the same understanding applies.  It’s so easy for that intrusive but well-meaning person to come along, pick through your things, and tell you how “all your lipsticks should be put together…” or how “it would make more sense just to put all the men’s products in one area …”.  Yes, but that would be too simple and I deliberately want to make things harder for myself. Nooo!

Home-based Business product inventory

Unless that caring individual has to work with me in that space, they don’t know that it’s not always as simple as putting all of the lipsticks together.  They don’t know that it’s a WORLD of matte lipsticks, lip glosses, lip stains, ravishing reds, pretty-in-pinks, naughty nudes… and they are constantly changing.  They don’t understand that orders are not just placed by lipsticks or shoes.  It’s the types of shoes, the types of lipstick.  It’s the type of men’s accessory… is it seasonal?  For what purpose?.. dry or oily skin?  What size?  These are just examples of what needs to be taken in consideration when creating a storage system for your products that will really work for YOU and your business.

Home-based Business Inventory list

Home-based Business Organizing Tip #5 :  Store your products according to what works best for your particular business.

  • First thing’s first, go through your entire inventory and sort through what you have.  Create general categories for your storage area according to what your inventory consists of.  It may be lipsticks, eye liners, blushes.  It may be men’s, women’s, children’s.  It may be candles, flatware, or linens.  Then, create sub-categories based on the types of lipsticks, candles, or children’s items.
  • Purge products that are unsellable or discontinued.  You may consider using the discontinued items as give-aways or thank-you gifts for customers.
  • Take consideration of items that may be temperature-sensitive and store them accordingly.
  • If space is an issue, consider condensing some of your categories or take more advantage of your vertical space by purchasing wall shelving.
  • Use sturdy storage units that will withstand wear-and-tear over a longer period of time.  Consider stretching your dime a little more for a better quality shelving unit.  It’s an investment worth making.
  • Store seasonal or special occasion items further away, while items that sell or are used regularly should be stored in view.
  • Good lighting is as essential in your storage area as it is in your work space.  Concerned about power consumption?  Energy efficient light bulbs are the perfect, cost-effective solution.
  • When labeling your products, be sure to use a font size that is easily visible to you.  It’s enough trying to locate the products themselves, let alone having to struggle with what your label says on the shelf or the container.
  • Keep a log of any items that have specific expiration dates and be sure to store the items with the closest expiration dates toward the front to be sold first.  Keep an inventory tracking log daily so that you know what items may need to be restocked, especially prior to key sale days or events.
  • Finally, be sure to take a few minutes at the end of your business day to do a quick run through your work area and inventory space to make sure everything is placed back in it’s original home.

By keeping these tips in mind, you’re business day is sure to flow as smooooth as butter.

– Sy

Home-based Business Organizing Tip #4: Create a Space that Inspires You!

Ever just walk into a gorgeous room and become so awestruck by it that you hated to leave?  What about the feeling you get when you see those beautiful room images in the magazines?  You know, the neatly organized and amazing designer décor that excites you.  How about the feeling you get when you enter one of your favorite stores?  Ever notice how the atmosphere tends to lighten your spirit?  The music, the organization of the inventory, the colors… all elements designed to give you a positive experience while you are in the space.  All designed to make you want to be there so that you’ll want to keep coming back.  Today’s tip deals with the importance of setting a positive, desirable atmosphere in conjunction with your newly organized home-based business space.  For me, home-based business organizing is more than just “putting things in its proper place” (by the way, that statement should not imply that the “proper place” is a specific place for certain things because we understand that everyone does not think  or work the same way.).  Your home-based business space should be orderly and neat but there’s another component that should resonate there also – inspiration.  We all need to be reminded of why we decided to go into business in the first place, especially in times when things don’t seem to go too well.  It helps to get that daily shot of motivation from things that provoke positive thoughts and experiences.

Positive thoughts and experiences stem from a number of things.  Think about the goals you have personally and professionally.  What about that cute drawing from your four-year-old, telling you how much he loves and appreciates everything you do (… in his own way, of course.)?  What about the promotions you’ve earned from the number of new team members you’ve recruited last year?  How about that first dollar from the very first sale you made?  Is there a dream home in your future?  Don’t they excite you and drive you to do whatever it takes to keep going?  Even a fresh wall color or those new storage totes you saw the other day may be enough to keep a smile on your face throughout the workday.  After all, you spend a good deal of your day in your home-based business space so why not use it to your full advantage.  So how do we incorporate all of these things into our business environment in order to obtain the ultimate, positive work experience?

Home-based Business Organizing Tip #4: Create a Space that Inspires You

The following are a few ideas to help you create a space that will have you coming back for more:

  • Incorporate various elements throughout the space that make you feel empowered, driven, and reminded of “The Why” behind your business.  Things that remind you of how excited you were when you started your business, the accomplishments you made (plaques/awards… special recognitions), the goals you have set (vision boards), your support system (family photos).  These are examples of elements that provoke you to do your best work and identifies your passion for being in business.
  • Consider including elements that symbolize some of your personal interests.  Elements that keep you in a good mental place because they stimulate feelings of joy.
  • Get creative by incorporating some decorating ideas that reflect your particular style – something inviting to you; whether it’s artwork, a new paint color, a specific style of office furniture, certain styles of office supplies, organizing products, shelving, and so on. (Big tip: take some decorating ideas from the brick-and-mortar stores.  After all, their ideas attract us to come in their stores every day, even if it’s just to look.  Also check out how they organize and display their inventory.  This is one of the methods I use when I organize for clients.)
  • Never include elements that have negative experiences attached to them.  Things that stress you or provoke negative thoughts like bills, customer complaints, old break-up letters from a past love, whatever it is, they should be taken care of immediately, disposed of, or properly labeled and stored away until you can address them. The point:  They should be left out of sight.

Home-based Business Organizing Tip #3: Attaaaack! (Go to Work)

“What’s better than a man/woman with a plan?.. The man/woman that executes it.” – Sy Welch

Now it’s time to get down and dirty.  Finally!.. you can let loose and tackle that clutter.  So here’s some things to keep in mind as you’re preparing to take the plunge.


Home-based Business Organizing Tip #3: Go To Work

  • First thing’s first, if you intend to do any painting or repairs at any point, be sure to complete them before you begin doing any work.  (Do you really want to finally get organized just to have to undo the work so you can paint?  Really?!  No, take care of it before you get in too deep.)
  • When you’re sorting through product inventory, don’t forget to create storage areas for things like damaged items, discontinued items, samples/give-aways, and pamphlets/catalogs.
  • Take measurements of the task areas you’ve created within your home-based business space to ensure that the storage furniture and products you have will fit.
  • Be sure to group all items that are needed for each task area together until you are prepared to store them away.
  • Store the most used items at waist to eye level for easier access and to avoid injuries.
  • If you’re an aspiring d.i.y.’er, you may want to consider repurposing some of your items as storage.  It may just take a fresh coat of paint, or some new hardware, or you can create it into a totally new storage solution for something you’ve never considered.  Hey, you’ll earn bragging rights for being so creative and you may save yourself a few dollars in the process.
  • ALWAYS take a few minutes at the end of your business day to tidy up.  Be sure everything is placed back where it needs to go.  Trust me, it may seem harmless to leave that stack of paperwork on the desk or a few inventory products off the shelf until tomorrow but that ant hill can easily turn into a mole hill quickly.  Clutter starts off small then after a couple of busy work days, it just becomes a game of “I’ll get to it”, to “O.K… this weekend.”, to “UUUUgggghhh!”.

Been there… done that… writing a book on it:)

– Sy

Home-based Business Organizing Tip #2: M.A.P. It Out!

One of the most famous quotes related to having a plan is, “he who fails to plan, plans to fail.” – Winston Churchill.  I could not agree more.  Especially since I’m personally working on disciplining myself in this area.  I used to be the master of the “last-minute fix”.  I was sharp at it, too… but there was the stress that came with it and the many times I fell short of the mark.  Even after all that work, my efforts ended up not being good enough to work for me.  This brings us to my next tip to organizing your home-based business space – M.A.P. It Out.  I can not move forward with anything without first planning my approach to getting things done.  I have to have that assurance that what I’m preparing to do has a high chance of working for me.  Then, if I need to adjust some things during the process, I can do it without that overwhelming, stressful feeling of having to figure it out as I go along.  There’s nothing worse than putting in all your energy, all your time into something to ultimately find out that it won’t work.  So let’s apply the process of planning specifically to getting your home-based business organized.

Home-based Business Organizing Tip #2: M.A.P. It Out

Now that we’ve had that much needed talk with ourselves to determine what exactly our home-based business needs are, we can now transition that information into a plan.  I refer to it as, M.A.P. It Out; it’s an acronym to make a plan.  The goal here is to strategize a plan of how you can store the items that you have BUT in a way that will allow you to flow through your workday with ease.  That means, “I need to (1) determine how I can arrange my workspace and my storage space according to how I work and (2) store the items that I use within my space according to where and how I use them.” 


Let’s say you have an online store selling graphic t-shirts.  Your space is in serious need of some TLC.  So you’ve taken the time to sit and write down everything you’ve talked about (… to yourself, of course) regarding your organizing needs.  Now, you have to create a plan of how you will set up your space based on how you use it.  O.k., so you know you need an area for your workspace; this is the area where you’ll be most of your business day either checking emails, making phone calls, placing orders, faxing, etc.  Then you’ll need a specific area for storing your t-shirt inventory.  But wait!.. what if you print your own tees?  You’ll need an area for your supplies, an area to package and prep your tees, an area for photo equipment so you can upload those professional quality images to your online gallery, and so on and so forth.  Although it sounds like quite a bit, it’s the reality of what you need to run your business every day.  My philosophy is if you begin to visualize things while you are IN the space, it tends to help you focus even more on what your specific needs are.  Often times, you may discover something you may have overlooked had you not been in the room.  So, physically, go in your space and visualize your typical workday.  Take note of the tasks you have on a regular basis.  This should help you determine the various areas you’ll need when defining your space.  Once you’ve M.A.P’d out those areas, then you can begin determining what items you would need to accomplish the specific tasks you have in those areas.  We want to get that elephant sweating before we move in for the attack.

Tip #3…

– Sy

Home-based Business Organizing Tip #1: Talk to yourself… yes, to YOURSELF.

Today, we’ll dive right in and I’ll try to keep it as short as possible.  Your time is very valuable and I know how motivated you are to jump right in but this is very important in order for your organizing efforts to go smoothly.

Home-based Business Organizing Tip #1: Talk to Yourself

First, you need to have a conversation with yourself.  Yes, a conversation with YOURSELF!  When I’m preparing to help a client organize their space, there’s a few key things that I need to know in order to ensure that the new system being created is going to work for them.  I took the same approach when I organized my storage unit.  I sat down and I asked myself, I said, “Self?!” Myself said, “Huh?!” I said, “Can you answer a few questions for me?” Myself said, “Alright… but let’s make it quick.  I have a consult.”  Such a diva!  Anyway, ask yourself very specific questions that will help you determine your home-based business needs, like:

“What specific things do I like about my space(s)?  What specific things don’t I like about my space(s)?  What are my absolute must-haves?  Why is it important for me to get organized right now (the goal)?  What contributed to the clutter in the first place… or what is contributing to it now?  What’s my daily routine?

Asking yourself these types of questions will help you to identify your specific needs.  This information will be particularly important to the rest of your organizing process, especially the planning phase.  So be very specific and honest with your answers because, again, you want to develop a realistic system of organization that will without-a-doubt work for you.

Well, there you have it.  So grab a pen and pad (or your tablet), whatever you use to store your notes.  Make a place setting for two and get comfortable because this may be the best conversation you have this week.

On to Tip #2…

– Sy

HBB organizing Tip #1